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Neal Benezra to Step Down as Director of SFMoMA

Neal Benezra to Step Down as Director of SFMoMA

ART NEWS

Neal Benezra to Step Down as Director of SFMoMA

Neal Benezra is leaving his post as director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art after nearly two decades on the job. While there, he expanded the museum’s collection to more than fifty thousand artworks, increased both its endowment and its attendance, commissioned a number of site-specific works, and shepherded the donation of the storied Fisher collection to the institution. He additionally oversaw the museum’s widely lauded 2016 expansion, performed by Norwegian firm Snøhetta.Benezra’s departure comes after a turbulent year for museums in general, with US arts institutions attempting, in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, to reckon with institutionalized racism while also dealing with the closures and in many cases layoffs spawned by the continuing Covid-19 crisis. SF MoMA, which at one point was forced to furlough the majority of its staff and has been closed for much of the year, in recent months saw the departure of chief curator Gary Garrels, who resigned after assuring staffers during a meeting that the museum would continue to collect the work of white artists. Benezra himself faced backlash after removing a comment made by a former SF MoMA staffer from the museum’s Instagram post of a work by Glenn Ligon, which itself drew criticism as being an inadequate response to Floyd’s death.“Like many other cultural institutions, we have had to confront issues of racial injustice at SFMOMA,” Benezra told the Times, “and we have learned a great deal from our staff, artists and our larger community.” He denied that either Garrels’s departure or his own tangle with staff had influenced his decision to step down, saying that plans had been afoot for him to leave the job since 2019. “What we are announcing is the beginning of a transition,” he said, “not a departure.”

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